At least one hundred locals from Ratanakkiri province’s Bar Kham commune on Wednesday confronted environmental officers and armed forces over the seizure of a timber truck, forcing the authorities to release the vehicle and its cargo.
The officers earlier that day stopped a truck transporting logs in Ta Kok Chray village, on suspicion it might have contained luxury timber.
However, the logs were taken from ordinary semi-evergreen trees found in many forests.
Mok Khon, acting chief of O’Yadav district environment office, said locals came out in force to demand the release of the truck.
“We did not just give it to them willingly, but they came as a group to take it back from us,” he said. “Right now we are preparing a report on the incident.”
Deputy district governor Sim Lin said locals in the community always supported one another.
“The truck belonged to just one or two people, but more than 100 people gathered together to protest,” he said.
Chea Pich, chief prosecutor at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court, said the authorities gave up the truck to avoid a violent confrontation.
“The timber was normal wood. However, they were big logs, so the people should have sought permission from the authorities to transport them,” Mr Pich said.
“When the people protested fiercely, I told the district and environmental authorities to give in to them, because I didn’t want armed forces to get into a conflict that was hard to control.”